With all the new technology being introduced to the world, one has to wonder if seemingly ancient plastic credit cards are on their way out, for good.
After all, they haven’t changed a whole lot over the past couple decades.
We’re still carrying around rectangular pieces of plastic in our wallets that contain 15 or 16 numerical digits and a magnetic strip for swiping.
Half the time they don’t even swipe on the first “go-round,” or even the second, and if they get stolen, they’re pretty darn easy to use fraudulently.
So why are we still using them?!?!?!
Changes Must Be Coming
What’s funny (or sad depending on how you look at it) is that credit cards in their present form are a huge security risk.
As mentioned, all the important information is right on the physical card, so they’re easily compromised when lost or stolen.
And instead of creating new credit cards with more cryptic data, credit card issuers are coming up with gimmicky features like “expresspay” from American Express, where you can simply wave your credit card over a scanner.
Their angle is that the credit card never leaves your possession, which ostensibly makes it safer.
But it also means would-be thieves can go anywhere and simply wave your credit card over a payment terminal, making theft via credit card even easier than ever before.
About five years ago, AOL founder Steve Case began promoting the RevolutionCard, which separated itself from the crowd by containing no identifying information on the card itself.
No name, no credit card number, no CVV2 number, meaning no easy way to use the card.
Instead, it relied on a pin number to make purchases, so if criminals didn’t know the pin number, they wouldn’t be able to use the card.
Well, fast forward to present day and the company is belly up. So that didn’t work out as planned.
Recently, MasterCard came up with a so-called Display Card that generate one-time passwords in order to work.
But one has to question whether it’s worth investing in the now old-fashioned rectangular plastic model when there are better options these days.
Are Phones the Future?
There’s always a bit of a learning curve when it comes to new technology, and sometimes those who arrive too early lose out.
That may have been the case with the RevolutionCard, but now there is a new breed of technology hoping to make a splash.
The biggest one to watch for is Google Wallet, which finally got all major credit card issuers on board.
Now, if you own an Android phone and have the Google Wallet app installed, you can use your phone to make credit card purchases at brick and mortar stores or online.
When making them in-store, all you have to do is tap your phone against the MasterCard paypass terminal, similar to how expresspay from American Express works.
The difference is that your credit card information is stored securely “on the cloud,” meaning a thief won’t be able to see your identifiable information, even if they get a hold of your phone.
You can also add all your credit cards to the phone, so if a merchant only accepts Visa or MasterCard, you can select that card instead of your American Express.
Or if you want certain cash back rewards, you can simply select the credit card that has the best rewards for a particular merchant. It’ll actually be really convenient for those rotating rewards categories offered via the Chase Freedom card and others.
If you don’t have an Android phone, you can still use Google Wallet for purchases online.
Once you’re signed in to your Google Wallet account, simply look for the “pay with Google Wallet” icon and click to complete your purchase.
It’s much quicker and easier than whipping out your credit card, and presumably safer as well.
So it looks as if credit cards are finally evolving, and will soon be phased out completely.
It’ll probably take another five years, but my bet is we won’t be swiping plastic credit cards for long.
My only fear is that when we do misplace our smartphones, we’ll feel completely helpless.
It’s amazing they aren’t obsolete already. I use my iPhone for purchases at Starbucks and other places, why use a credit card?